NONTHEMATIC / Vol. 48, No. 2 (Summer 1981)
Arien Mack, Editor
The Graduate Faculty notes with sorrow the passing of our beloved colleague, Saul Padover. Saul graced our faculty, to which he was passionately devoted, for thirty-two years as Professor of Political Science, Dean, Distinguished Service Professor, and Professor Emeritus. A truly civilized man, he charmed and enriched all who knew him. We shall always cherish his memory.
Discusses the sociology of knowledge through the approaches called the "hidden sequence" and the "gap," and focuses on the systematic thought of Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham and the gap between Smith's social politics and the radical individualism of 19th-century Bentham, showing how each man's theories relate to money, words, knowledge, and people in a sociological context.
John Rawls defends egalitarianism, and I have defended a form of egalitarianism, though my form is more radical than Rawls’s. One will be so committed to equality if one believes, as Rawls does and I do, that human beings in the design of their social institutions have an equal right to concern and respect. We must not, that is, design our social life so that the interests of any human being are ignored. Rather, all interests must, as far as that is possible, be equally considered. It is only where it is not possible to avoid conflicts of interests that the interests of some may be rightly subordinated. One of the deep problems of moral philosophy is to try to determine a fair and morally justified way of doing this.
The belief that capitalism is intrinsically exploitative is usually taken as a characteristic feature of Marxian economic analysis. However, Marxism is not the only body of doctrine to have developed a systematic critique of capitalism nor the only philosophy to have produced a moral condemnation of basic features of capitalist practice. Understanding of the historical significance of capitalism can be deepened, and the perception of exploitation clarified, by consideration of an alternative moral tradition which, while differing from Marxism at crucial points, concurs in the condemnation of capitalist injustice. Such an alternative moral tradition is exemplified in Scholastic natural-law theory.
There was a time when psychologists were concerned with understanding human nature, that is, with understanding the innate characteristics of the species and how these characteristics affect cognition, emotion, and action. The failure of certain specific attempts to answer questions about human nature does not mean that those questions are not important and should be forgotten. Although the human has a vast capacity for learning and for modifying his behavior, the human is not a totally flexible animal. And simply because one cannot totally disentangle environmental, experiential, and biological effects does not mean that genetically carried influences should be ignored. As a matter of fact, all those things would be understood more clearly and sharply if we did know the precise innate characteristics of the species.
Discusses the future of sociology as an academic discipline as well as a profession, providing cases for sociology as a service profession, discussion of contract research and the success of American positivism, ideological and institutional underpinnings of positivism, and the consolidation of the positivist-functionalist sociological paradigm from 1945-70.
After my interviews with Marcuse, I came away with the feeling that there existed two professors Marcuse. One was an exceptionally decent, responsible, lucid, open-minded scholar and teacher. The other was a German professor of philosophy who in his writings was given to obscure language and all-encompassing grandiose theories which combined romantic flights of the imagination with a deep underlying faith in human beings’ potential for rationality.
There is a widespread tendency to regard the optimism with which many expert scientists and engineers have treated the reliability and safety of nuclear power installations as economically and politically motivated. In my view, this is not the entire story. Indications exist pointing to conceptions of scientific method and its relation to practice as contributing to this optimism. These philosophical outlooks are, to say the least, controversial even when they are fashionable. Their role in the assessment of the safety of nuclear power plants should be brought out. To this end the methodological reflections contained in the famous (or infamous) Rasmussen Report on accident risks in nuclear power plants will be reviewed.